Week 2 Response to prompt 1 Norton’s Intrinsic Value


On the topic of human relations with nature it is tough to map out the exact causes of the transition from respect and synergy to one of dominance. The advent of agriculture the European enlightenment and industrial revolution no doubt played a significant role in highlighting the effects of our dominance but I would argue that human separation from nature started earlier, ever since man formalized and extended the concept of possession. This concept led to the belief that items, and in particular land, could belong to an individual or groups of people. It’s at this point that I would suspect such a separation to occur and the groundwork for an anthropocentric ideological system to take root.

I believe anthropocentrism plays a very important role in how we understand nature and that the concept, although sometimes portrayed as a result of human ego, is needed in order to orient ourselves in relation to the world. Our understanding of math, science, and furthermore nature is classified and described in relation to human notions and goals. Without such a perspective we would lack our current understanding of anything. That is not to say that unregulated societies based on anthropocentric concepts are impervious to fault. The Tragedy of the Commons proves that human nature and the exploitation of the environment can lead to, quite literally, a tragic situation. By taking a weak anthropocentric view you are agreeing to the notion that although there may be other perspectives that could and probably should be taken into account, that it is only the human perspective that we can fully understand and therefore the one that we should focus on. This is a notion that I don’t feel is particularly dangerous as long as there is an understanding that nature is still needed and still holds value. Looking at the world through human eyes may lead us to achieve human oriented goals but those goals don’t have to be exclusive to the separation of humans from nature or the destruction of nature.

The notion of intrinsic value is a tough subject because its one that almost impossible to measure. Nonetheless I do believe some level of intrinsic value is important in preserving nature. The preservation of nature, in all reality, can be ignored in intrinsic terms and continue under basic materialistic goals. This kind of view is risky though because it disregards nature when it stops being the optimal materialistic option. Personally this is dangerous, we need nature as a safeguard, and by giving intrinsic value to nature we help to secure this safeguard. In the future I don’t think technology will be used to further the separation from nature but to blur the lines. For instance biomimicry is a growing field and uses nature as a foundation for technological advancement. Technology could be used to replace natural processes but we can always learn from nature and we will continue to respect this. For instance we can create simple enzymes in labs but these enzymes are slow in comparison to those already present in nature. We are only beginning to understand how these complex enzymes work. Nature has too much to offer the technological world for technology to get rid of it.


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